Does your child need help brushing his/her teeth?
Can your child wash his/her hands without help?
Will your child do simple chores around the home, like making his/her bed, without your help?
Assisting your child with these and other self-help tasks daily can often bring stress to your life. If you can teach your child to do these self-help tasks on his/her own, you will reduce stress for yourself and increase your child’s sense of independence. Both of these are important developments for the health of your family unit.
The positive psychology technique known as video self-modeling can quickly teach your child self-help skills. Daily self-help skills that are sometimes taken for granted by parents of children without autism can be taught to your child on short videos that you create yourself. The best part is the only equipment you need is a tablet or smartphone.
This article is the third in a series that focuses on ways to use video self-modeling to help your child with challenges common to children with autism spectrum disorder. The focus this month is on using video self-modeling to teach your child to complete self-help skills on his/her own. Previous articles focused on teaching social skills and helpful eating behaviors.
The examples below are designed to give you a sense of how video self-modeling can be used to teach the self-help skills. You can easily adjust what is shown in the video to teach additional self-help skills that are important to your child’s development.
What is video self-modeling?
Video self-modeling uses short videos of your child to show them exactly what to do in specific situations. The videos are created and edited to show your child succeeding —all errors and mistakes are removed. Humans are known to learn better when they see learning models that look similar to them. Video self-modeling capitalizes on this by showing your child’s brain what to do by watching the perfect learning model — himself/herself! This is a positive psychology technique that has been studied extensively — and proven to work — since 1970.
When using video self-modeling to teach self-help skills, your child will watch videos of himself/herself performing the skill without any directions from you. While you might need to give directions to get him/her to show the right steps on the video, you will edit the video to remove these directions, so it looks like the child did it on his/her own. Your child will know the video is edited and that is okay. The important part is to show your child’s brain what to do.
Below are a few examples of how to use video self-modeling to teach self-help skills. Remember, you can easily adjust what is shown in the video to teach self-help skills that are important to YOUR child’s development. These examples are designed to help you think of ways to do that.
How can I teach self-help skills to my child using video self-modeling?
The below examples of how to use video self-modeling to improve your child’s self-help skills are based on the questions posed at the beginning of this article.
If your child has the skills to complete all the steps to brush his/her teeth but does not do it without daily directions from you, video self-modeling can help. Make a short, positive video using your smartphone or tablet and complete the following:
- Tell your child he/she is going to star in a movie.
- Explain the video will help the child brush teeth on his/her own.
- Using your smartphone or tablet, record your child doing each step of brushing the teeth (i.e., picking up the toothbrush, opening the toothpaste cap, squeezing paste onto the bristles, wetting the brush, etc.). You may need to tell the child each step of the way. Either don’t record when you’re giving the directions or plan to edit the directions out later.
- Edit the video to show your child completing all the steps of brushing his/her teeth without any directions. You can use free software such as iMovie or Kinemaster to complete the editing.
- Add a picture of your child looking happy at the start and end of the video.
- At the beginning of the video, add a voiceover such as, “This is Dan brushing his teeth like a big boy.” Don’t use phrases such as, “This is Dan brushing his teeth all by himself,” since some children may view that as a lonely thing to do.
- At the end of the video, add another voiceover such as, “Terrific job brushing your teeth like a big boy, Dan!”
- The final video should be about 30 to 60 seconds in length. Show the video to your child every 1-2 days and say he/she is doing a great job every time the teeth are brushed independently.
- Once the teeth are being brushed without directions consistently, you can start showing the video less often (1-2 times per week for 2 weeks) or just stop showing it altogether. Your child may tire of watching the same video repeatedly, so if he/she still needs instruction but is refusing to watch the same video over and over, make a new video.
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Hand washing is an important skill that can help keep your child healthy. Hand washing after using the bathroom and before eating is very important for maintaining good health. If your child is not currently washing his/her hands without directions from you, try the following:
- Tell your child he/she will be the star of a movie.
- Let the child know why hand washing is important and that the video will help the child wash hands on his/her own which will help keep him/her healthy.
- Record your child completing the steps of washing hands (i.e., rolling up sleeves, turning on the faucet, pumping soap into the hands, singing a song such as “Happy Birthday” while he/she washes the hands, rinsing the hands, etc.). You may need to direct the child to do each step. Try to not record the directions, if you can. Record this using a smartphone or tablet.
- Edit the video to show your child completing all the hand-washing steps, in order, without any directions from you. You can use free editing software such as iMovie or Kinemaster for this step.
- Add a smiling picture of the child to the beginning and end of your video.
- Add a voiceover to the start of the video, such as, “This is Mary Ann washing her hands like a big girl.”
- Say something like, “Great job washing your hands, Mary Ann!” at the end of the video.
- Show the edited video to your child every 1-2 days and praise them every time he/she washes hands on his/her own.
- Once your child is consistently washing hands on his/her own, you can show the video less often or stop showing it altogether.
Making the Bed or Helping in the Kitchen
Giving your child daily chores can help him/her learn independence and gain a sense of confidence. To show your child the steps for making the bed, helping to prepare food in the kitchen, or another similar chore, use the same steps described above and simply change what is shown in Step 3. For instance, show your child pulling the sheets and covers up over the pillow and placing the pajamas under the pillow. Or show your child placing napkins and cutlery next to the plates on the table for dinner. You can start with simpler tasks like this and then build to more complicated ones, like loading and unloading the dishwasher or preparing a meal for microwave cooking. Be creative and only use video self-modeling to teach your child skills and behaviors that will help him/her succeed in life.
Video self-modeling can be used to improve many behaviors and skills. The next article in this series will focus on using video self-modeling to help your child handle disappointment without melting down. Until then, happy recording!
This article was featured in Issue 76 – Raising A Child with Autism